NOTE: God is giving me the story of Alex in pieces. As He gives them to me, I will share them with you. I am simply being the scribe to write them down for you. If you think I know where this story is headed, let me tell you right up front, I have no idea. You will know when I know. The first of these stories is called Crazy Christmas Miracles. If you haven’t read it, you may want to do that after you read this one.

No Presents?

Snow! The snow had finally come! The first snow of the year and it was the last day of school before Christmas break. Temperatures had dropped to five degrees and promised to be below zero by the time school was out. Alex didn’t mind, though. He had a warm down jacket, his favorite cap with fur inside and fur-lined ear muff, plus his warmest gloves. He wanted to walk to school, but his mom didn’t agree and his dad agreed with his mom.

“It’s way too cold, Alex,” Mom said in her nice voice. Then playfully tugging the brim of his cap down over his eyes, she added. “I don’t want you to get sick before your birthday.”

“Mother always knows best, Buddy,” Dad said. “Come on. I’ll give you a ride to school.”

“And I’ll pick you up after,” Mom called as they headed towards the door.  Just then, Alex stopped, turned around, ran back to his mom and gave her a big kiss on the cheek. “That’s for being the best mom ever,” he said.

Dan, took a cue from his son. In dramatic fashion he grabbed Lily, tipped her over and gave her a big kiss. “Really Dad?” Alex said. “Not in front of the children.” His twin sisters had come down the stairs just then. Their school started later than the school Alex attended.

Missy and Abby giggled. “See ya’ later, Sissies,” Alex teased.  That had been his name for them from the day they were born eight years ago. Twins had been a surprise to his parents. There were no twins that they knew of on either side of their families, but his mother had wanted a girl and two were just a double blessing she had said.

They were born on a hot June day. Every year their birthday was time for a huge family celebration. Part of it was the fact that they were twins, but the other part was that Alex’ family just liked having another reason to get together.

Alex’s birthday had been a more difficult one for his parents to figure out how to celebrate because of being born on Christmas Day. Although his birth was miraculous in many ways from the old man who gave his parents’ shelter the night he was born, to the bright light in the sky that led the ambulance to the location not visible from the road or on any map to the crazy singing the ambulance crew swears led them to the house, the problem was make a child’s birthday special on Christmas Day when everything was special for everybody.

In the end they had decided that Christmas would be more about Alex’s birthday than anything else. They wanted to be sure that he knew he was loved and celebrated. So they all came together and played a gift grab bag game where everyone went home with a present, but everyone also brought a present for Alex. There was no doubt they had done their best to make him feel special.

So at the Chesterfield home, the two very best days of any year were Alex’s birthday and the twins’ birthday. Both celebrations meant all that all three kids got presents, Alex on the twins’ birthday and the twins on Alex’s, and their entire extended family and many friends joined them for the parties. Alex thought back over the years and how he had felt his family’s love and support on those days, but also on every day of the year.

Lately, though, he had been thinking more about the fact that Christmas Day wasn’t just his birthday. It was also the birthday of Someone very important. He had been thinking about how at their house Christmas was more about his birthday than Jesus’. His parents had taken him and his sisters to church, Sunday School, church camps for as long as he could remember and he was in a Christian school. It just seemed like Christmas should be the biggest celebration, but for Jesus, not Alex and not even the twins.

He didn’t know how to change that because most people he knew celebrated Christmas by giving gifts. It was just the way it was. Christmas had become more about selling and buying, kind of like the money-changers in the temple. Toys were everywhere and kids were asking for everything imaginable that they really didn’t need. Alex didn’t want any more toys. He had too many already. It made him feel kind of strange to get toys any more. After all, this year he would be turning 12.

He felt a stirring of a different kind. It didn’t have to do with adding more cars to his train set, more video games to his already large collection or even another pair of basketball shoes or another basketball. This was something entirely different, so different he hadn’t even been able to tell his parents. He couldn’t put it into words. Every time they asked him what he wanted for his birthday and Christmas, he couldn’t answer because the words wouldn’t form correctly in his mind.

He knew it was frustrating to his mom and she had probably bought him something already, but Alex truly was tired of being the center of attention at Christmas. It just made him feel uneasy and kind of fake or unworthy or like he was taking the place of Someone who really deserved center stage.

“A penny for your thoughts,” his Dad said. When Alex still stared straight ahead, Dan probed a bit more. “Really, Son, what are you so deep in thought about this last day of school before your birthday?”

Alex hesitated. Should he bring the subject up with his dad? He didn’t want to hurt his feelings if he and his mom had already bought him presents. “I am thinking that I don’t need any presents this year. No, that’s wrong. I don’t WANT any presents this year.”

“No presents for Christmas or your birthday? Why that’s just down-right unChesterfield of you,” he said laughing. “Your mother and grandmothers would think you had become an alien and not from this crazy present-giving clan if you don’t like presents.”

“I didn’t say I didn’t like them, Dad. I said I didn’t want any. I have enough things. There are so many other people who NEED things. I don’t really have a need for anything. I have more than enough.”

“Where is this coming from Alex? Is there someone you know who doesn’t have much and you want to give them some things? You can always go through your things and give some things away you don’t have use for any more.”

“Dad, I don’t want to give my hand-me-downs to Jesus. I want to give Him my firsts. I want to give Him everything for His birthday, but right now I feel like all He gets is the leftovers.”

Dan was silent. He had always known his son was special. The night of his birth almost 12 years ago was one he and Lily had talked about often. So many crazy circumstances had brought them to the conclusion that Alex was going to surprise them all. It’s why they had sent him to a private Christian School. It’s why Dan tried to listen to his ideas, probe his mind, which was already proving to be far beyond where Dan was in every way, especially spiritually. Dan sensed this was one of those times when God was talking to him through his son.

“Son, do you have a plan for how we can turn that around?”

Dan could almost hear the wheels turning in Alex’s brain. “Not yet. But I will let you know when I do. Thanks for listening, Dad. Sometimes I feel like my mind says things I didn’t even know were there. It kind of freaks me out.”

“Alex, that’s God putting thoughts into your mind. Don’t push them away. Listen to them. Accept what He is telling you. You have a special connection with Him. You’ll never lose that if you act on what He’s telling you instead of second-guessing or not acting because you are afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings. Your mother and I may not always understand what God is telling you, but we will always support you.”

“Thanks Dad. That really helps. I promise I won’t be afraid to listen.”

“Ok, see you tonight! I have a feeling this is going to be a Chesterfield Christmas to remember!”

A New Friend

The bell was ringing when Alex got inside the door. He just had time to put his coat in the locker, grab his books and slide into his seat. At his school, the seventh graders had a home room where they did most of their work and then they went to  other classrooms for various subjects such as Algebra, Geography, American History and Physical Science. With this being the last day before school let out for Christmas break the day’s schedule had been altered completely.

There were short class sessions to turn in homework and get assignments for the Christmas break. Most teachers tried not to give assignments, but some had reading for them to do and others wanted students to begin thinking about projects or papers for the next semester. After lunch was the Christmas assembly and then the party.

During lunch, Alex decided to sit at a table with several kids he didn’t know. The normal crowd he sat with beckoned him over, but for some reason he felt the need to sit somewhere else. This table was totally different. No one talked to anyone else. Everyone ate with their heads down as if afraid to look another person in the eye. For some reason, Alex felt need to know these kids, none of whom were in any of his classes.

“Hi, I’m Alex. I’ve seen you around. What’s your name?” he asked the boy sitting next to him. He was probably twice the size of Alex physically so there was no doubt that Alex had seen him, but the boy kept his head down and kept eating. “It’s ok. You can talk to me.”

“No I can’t,” the boy said whispering while still looking down at his food. Every once in awhile his eyes would nervously dart around the room as if to see if anyone was noticing that he was talking to someone.

Alex lowered his voice. “Why not?”

“Cause I’m on probation and if I talk too loud I’ll get kicked out of school. I can’t get kicked out because if I do I can’t go back to the group home.”

Then Alex remembered something he had heard his parents talking about. There were some foster children from a group home going to his school. The school had given scholarships to them, but because they weren’t necessarily Christians, the scholarships had rules attached. They had to be sure not to cause any problems or they would be kicked out and not allowed back in the school.

Even worse, if they were kicked out of the school, the group home had the right to decide they couldn’t keep them either. The placement in the group home and then the scholarship to the Christian school was a last ditch effort to help the kids.

“Can we talk after lunch? Maybe in the courtyard?”

He nodded his head yes. “It’s a date then,” Alex whispered.

After lunch Alex followed the boy to the courtyard. It was an open space where kids could mingle, do homework or visit. It wasn’t monitored very closely by any teachers, but there were always teachers strolling through the area.

Alex learned the boy’s name was Aaron and everyone called him Big Aaron. He was at least two heads taller than Alex and very muscular. His mother was a drug addict and his father was in jail. He couldn’t remember the last time he saw them. The group home was the best place he had ever lived. He’d been in at least six foster homes since he was four. He was now 12. He also liked the school. The problem was that he didn’t feel like he fit in any place and was always afraid of messing things up for himself and the other kids if he spoke too loudly, laughed, joked or had a good time.

“Hey, Aaron,” Alex said after hearing his story. “Have you ever played basketball?”

“Sure, at the park across the street from the group home,” he said. “But I don’t really know the rules. I can dribble the ball and shoot from the free throw line pretty good, though.”

“How would you like to play on the school team? I mean I can’t guarantee it, but I know we need a guy of your height. I think coach could teach you. I’m just a little guy compared to you, but I’m one of the tallest on the team. It’s a lot of fun and I think it might be the place where you can fit in.”

Aaron’s eyes got even bigger than they were. “That would be too good to be true so it probably won’t happen. So I won’t get my hopes up.” Then he hung his head. “If I get my hopes up things always seem to go south.”

Just then, Alex noticed Coach Jensen walking through the courtyard. “Wait here,” he said to Aaron.

“Coach,” Alex said running up to the man in a tshirt and athletic pants. “See that tall guy over there? Can he play on the team? We could really use a someone like him.”

“Isn’t he from the group home?” Coach asked.

“Yes, but he’s really a great guy.”

“I doubt he knows the rules and I doubt he can maintain the level of cooperation and fair play we expect of you boys. You know, no pushing, shoving, cursing.”

“Coach, how do we know until we give him a chance? He keeps his head down and keeps quiet so he doesn’t draw attention to himself. He’s so afraid of getting kicked out of here and his group home that he’s not really living. Can’t we try, please?”

“Ok, bring him by the next practice. Make sure he has the right shoes, socks, shorts and a proper shirt for practice. You know the drill. And make sure he really can shoot. We’ll see what he can do. I’m not promising anything and I’ll have to talk to the principal, teachers and the group home parents.  It’s really a big if.”

“I’ll take an if. I’ll have him ready.”

Aaron was giving Alex a strange look when he walked back over. “What?” Alex asked.

“I knew it. He doesn’t want me on the team,” Aaron said hanging his head again. “You don’t have to say it. I can tell.”

“He said he’d give you a shot,” Alex said trying to sound excited. “We have to get you up to speed on some things and do some practicing together before the first practice of next year, but he said if I thought you were ready to bring you by.”

“Still sounds iffy,” Aaron said.

“Nothing is ever a sure thing unless you work for it,” Alex said. “My dad taught me that. Hey do you have a pair of high top, good quality basketball shoes?”

“I don’t have high quality anything,” Aaron said with a sigh. “Everything I have are hand me downs. Most are too big or too little. Shoes never fit my size 14 feet.”

“Ok, what are you doing the next week?”

“Most likely doing a lot of stuff to help around the group home. I’m always the one that changes the light bulbs and the smoke alarms and climbs the ladder to get into the attic to get down the Christmas lights and stuff.”

“Think they can spare you for a few afternoons of practice?”

“I’ll see.”

“Ok give me your number. I’ll talk to my Mom and Dad and see if they can call your group home parents and we’ll see what we can do about getting you ready for basketball come January.”

Grandpa Shaffer 

After school, Alex was excited to see that it was his dad who was picking him up. “Dad you’ll never guess what happened today at school. I met this great guy named Aaron, Big Aaron they call him. He’s got to be the tallest guy in school and …” Alex stopped studying his dad’s face. “What happened?”

“It’s your Grandpa Shaffer,” his dad explained. “He’s had a big set back. They aren’t sure what’s happening exactly. It may be his liver again or something else in his body shutting down. He’s done so good until now. Your mother has gone to Johnson City to be with him and her mother and sister. You and I need to get your sisters and try to take care of things at home. Not sure what this Christmas is going to be like now.”

Alex pondered continuing his story about Aaron. He was so sure his parents would help him with outfitting Aaron that he wasn’t sure what to do. Maybe he could at least invite Aaron over to practice at his house. They had a makeshift court set up on their driveway. Hopefully there would be some sunny days. However, getting Aaron over there and getting permission from his group home would necessitate getting his dad involved and right now his dad’s mind was elsewhere.

“Grandpa Shaffer will be fine,” Alex said. “Let’s pray for him right now.” He didn’t wait for his dad to agree. After all his dad was driving. So Alex began, “Jesus, you are the great physician. By your stripes we have been healed. Grandpa Shaffer loves you. He’s been forgiven for anything he did in the past that might be affecting his body today. I declare that he is healed right now in Jesus’ name.”

There was a powerful presence in the car. Alex felt it and he was sure his dad could feel it too because there was a tear trickling down his cheek. “I so love it when you pray like that,” his dad said. “I know it comes from this deep place inside you. I also know God hears, takes note and acts on what you pray. I have no doubt that we will hear good news any minute about your grandpa.”

The phone didn’t ring all night. Dan texted Lily several times only to find out that her dad was still not doing well. Doctors were trying to figure out what to do. They were saying that it might only be a matter of time now before he would be gone.

“No, Dad,” Alex said calmly. “Grandpa Shaffer is healed. I know. Jesus told me. We just need to keep praying and keep standing on that fact.”

“I am agreeing with you, but you know there is a time for every one of us and it may be your Grandpa’s time,” his dad said sadly. “I want you to be prepared.”

“Dad, I need to see Grandpa,” Alex said. “I need to pray for him.”

“You can pray right here. God hears your prayers no matter where you are.”

“Yes, Dad, but I need to go.”

“We can’t go tonight. The girls are already in bed. We’ll see about tomorrow.”

There was no change the next day in Grandpa Shaffer. Alex once again insisted that he needed to go see his grandfather. Dan called Jennifer’s mother to see if the twins could spend the night with their friend. She said it would help her tremendously because Jennifer, who was an only child, felt at loose ends without someone to play with.

“I’m not sure when we will be back, but Alex really needs to see his grandfather in person and it might be the last time he can do that,” Dan said. “They are really close. Johnson City isn’t that far away. If the girls need something just give me a call.”

“We’ll be fine,” Jennifer’s mom assured him. “They’ll have fun together.”

“I hope they don’t drive you crazy.”

“You mean crazier. I’m already crazy.”

“Yep, that’s why they love going to your house! We’ll be there shortly.”

The Big Idea

After dropping off the girls, Dan and Alex drove to Johnson City. The weather was warming up some and the snow had pretty much melted off of the roads. “Dad, can I talk to you about something,” Alex ventured.

“You know you can talk to me any time.”

“Well, this isn’t about Grandpa or anything.”

“That’s Ok. What’s on your mind?”

“You know how I told you I didn’t want anything for my birthday? Well, I know what I want to do instead.”

“This is definitely going to be a different kind of Christmas, but from what your mother says it is really just a matter of time before your grandfather is healed completely in heaven.”

Alex told his dad all about Aaron and how he wanted to help him. “Dad, I just feel like this is something I’m supposed to do, not just with Aaron but maybe with the other kids at Fuller’s Group Home. I know I’m just a kid, but I’d like to find out what they are good at and help them do more of that.”

“Alex you never cease to amaze me,” Dan said with weariness in his voice.

“Dad, instead of gifts for me this year I’d like to be able to get Aaron some size 14 basketball shoes and the right kind of socks, shirt and shorts maybe even underwear to be a real basketball player. Then, I’d like to be able to do something like that for the others once I get to know them.”

“Alex, that’s a wonderful idea. I’m not sure how to do that exactly, but…”

“If you haven’t gotten my gifts maybe you could just give me money to be able to do some of those things. That would make me happier than anything else in the world. I think that would make Jesus happy too.”

“You’re probably right Alex. We’ll talk to your mom and see what she thinks, but first we need to focus on your grandpa.”

“He’s healed, Dad.” The silence was deafening.

“Alex, I know you want to believe that, but your mother is there by his side. She’s painting a different story. She believes he will be completely healed when he steps over into glory. The real miracle is that he turned his life over to Jesus when you were born and has been following Him for the last 12 years. Now it’s his time. We have to accept that fact and not be sad.”

“Dad, I’m not sad,” Alex said turning in his seat and looking at his dad. “Grandpa will have a great time in heaven with Jesus when it’s his time. But Jesus told me that it’s not Grandpa’s time yet. He will see me grow up, graduate college, get married and have a son. It looks bad now, but He will turn the situation around. He told me that Grandpa needs to see me and remember…”

“Remember what, Alex?”

“Remember that he made a pledge to me to see me grow up. He has to want to live. Really, everyone has to have a reason to live. That’s what God has been showing me. The key to bettering society is to help people find their reasons to live.”

“Where’d you hear all that?”

“I don’t know. It’s just what God has been telling me lately. I mean you told me He’d speak to me if I’d listen. So I’ve begun listening and He’s begun speaking to me.”

“How do you know it is Him?” Dan was intrigued with how his son would answer.

“It’s hard not to know once you open your heart and mind to Him. He gives me ideas I didn’t have before and words that are bigger than me and yet, I understand them. I don’t know how, but I know helping people have a purpose is the beginning of a big change for kids my age and even those Grandpa’s age.

“I know I’m just one little kid in Statesville, MO, but He showed me a picture of how what I do will impact the world.”

“What was the picture?” his dad asked.

“There was a picture of the world, but zoomed in on the United States. Right in the middle was a bright light where Statesville, MO is. Then there were what looked like LED light strands that connected to other cities, which connected to others and eventually the connections went all around the world.” Alex’s voice raised a couple of pitches as he excitedly shared the vision.

“What did that mean to you?

“I think God wants me to start a movement.”

“How will you do that?”

“By helping one kid at a time, like Aaron. Then Aaron will bring others I can help and Aaron can help others and then all of those can help others. It’s sort of like a Jesus Kid Explosion!”

“I like that,” his dad said. “Jesus Kid Explosion. I think you have something there. What if we set up a not for profit organization and begin taking donations starting with your birthday money?”

“Yeah and we can get a Facebook Page, Instagram Account, SnapChat and every social media channel to spread the word.”

“We need a logo,” his dad said. “I’ll bet my sister can help with that.”

“Hey Dad!” Alex said his face bright with ideas. “Why don’t we do a logo contest and get kids to send in submissions?”

“Ok, we need like a slogan for the organization.”

Alex was silent, but his dad could once again hear the wheels turning. “How about, Great Purposes for Great Kids?”

“Sounds good, Son. Now we need a scripture to stand on like a mission statement,” his dad said thinking out loud. “I was reading 1 Corinthians the other day and this verse spoke to me. 1 Corinthians 9:26 NLT, I run with purpose in every step.”

“Dad, I really like that. We could even do some kind of race or walk or marathon as a fund-raiser.”

Dan was loving this kind of give and take with his son. He sensed they were doing important work even if it was just the beginning stages of planning. He knew there’d have to be a board of directors, which by necessity would have to be adults maybe someone from Statesville Christian School, someone from their church, he could be on there. Alex couldn’t be a legal member because he wasn’t 18, but Alex would be on the board as a nonvoting member. Dan would tell him that he would vote however Alex told him to. So in essence Alex would be voting.

God gave this vision to Alex and Dan knew that. For one time in his life, though, he was grateful to be an attorney. He’d set up a few not for profit organizations and knew how to navigate that part of the legal world. He would help him all his son all he could. He thought back to the night when Alex was born. His mandate from God was clear. He was  to help Alex fulfill his mission here on earth. If he had to, he’d quit his job to work with his son. God would provide. He silently prayed that Lily would understand.

“Dad, I’m so excited about this,” Alex said.

“I am too, Son, but let’s not spring it on your mom just yet. I think she’s got other things on her mind right now.”

Grandpa’a Promise

They had just arrived at the hospital when Alex blurted out, “Dad, I have to go inside right now!” He darted out of the car and rushing for the door.

“Room 311,” Dan called out to him. “I’ll be right there.”

Alex had made it to the room a good minute before Dan. He must have taken the stairs because he was already there holding his grandpa’s hands in his. He was gazing into his grandpa’s soft blue eyes and speaking directly to the elderly man.

“Grandpa, I’m here now,” Alex said. “You promised to see me grow up. You can’t leave now. It’s not your time yet. Remember, you promised to stay. I know it’s easier to go. It’s so beautiful up there with Jesus, but He’s told you that you still have work to do here. When it’s your time, when you meet your great grandson, then you can go home, but until then, you have to stay here.”

Dan put his arm around Lily and whispered, “What’s happening?”

“Our son is being used to save my dad once again,” she said half in shock. “The heart machine had just shown that he had no heart beat and the doctor was getting ready to pronounce him dead when Alex ran into the room, pushed everyone aside and grabbed Dad’s hands and said, ‘Come back, Grandpa! It’s not time yet.’ His heart started beating again and he opened his eyes and looked at Alex. Then you heard the rest of it.”

The doctor moved to the other side of Grandpa’s bed. He began examining him, listening to his heart, consulting the monitors and shaking his head back and forth in amazement.

He walked over to Alex’s grandmother and said, “Mrs. Shaffer, your husband died. We all saw it. But now he is alive. This is the very first time I’ve seen what can only be described as an actual resurrection from the dead.”

She finished his train of thought, “And it happened all because an almost 12-year old boy prayed for him.”

“No,” Alex corrected. “It happened because God intervened in my grandpa’s life. It wasn’t time for him to go. God still has a purpose for him here on earth. When it’s his time, he will be promoted to heaven. Until then,” he turned to his grandpa, “he’s got work to do!”

Grandpa nodded his head, but his eyes were still fixed on his grandson and probably would be for some time.

“You are my Alex, the one God sent to show me the way,” Grandpa said with tears rolling down his face. “I love you more than anything in this life.”

As Alex looked around the room every person, even the doctor and his dad, was wiping away tears. “Dad,” Alex said, “I told you it wasn’t his time.”

“And so you did, my son. And so you did.”

Jesus Kids Explosion

With Alex’ birthday only five days away, Dan had a lot to do to get Alex’s present started. He could file for and obtain the fictitious name of the organization and file the NFP paperwork. He could open a bank account and get a Taxpayer Identification Number. He could deposit money in the account and then make the tax exemption backdated when the NFP was approved. If he worked hard he could most everything done or at least started enough for it to be a reality

Meanwhile Lily got a url for Jesus Kids Explosion, set up social media accounts and made herself, Dan and Alex account managers for all of them. She’d wait and let Alex begin posting what he wanted.

She also contacted Fuller Group Home and asked for each child’s Christmas gift wish list and then invited them all to the party on Christmas Day along with whatever staff wanted to come. Yes, this was going to be the birthday that Alex would remember for a long time to come.

She had the sense that every Christmas birthday they’d had for Alex had been lacking something. She could never quite put her finger on what it was. Then, when the twins came along, it just seemed natural that Christmas would be all about their kids and since they did that for Alex’s birthday, then they would do the same kind of thing for the twins. All the kids would be celebrated with gifts.

What she didn’t realize was they didn’t want to be takers. They preferred to be givers. Even at age eight, her girls were excited about the idea of helping others instead of getting more toys they probably would play with one day. When she said she’d already gotten their gifts, they asked if they could be given to the group home kids or taken back and the money put into the Jesus Kids Explosion Fund.

Dan and Lily didn’t keep the plans a secret from Alex because they knew he’d enjoy the planning as much or more than the party. They set up their large basement recreation room for the party, moving furniture to the garage and putting up chairs for visitors. There would be music, food and presents for the group home kids, but Dan and Alex also wanted to share the vision for Jesus Kids Explosion.

As an attorney Dan had lots of contacts that he knew would be interested in this project. He had purposefully set the party for Christmas evening so that many would come after their family events. Altogether over 200 people gathered in the Chesterfield’s beautiful home that evening.

Although Dan and Lily along with their parents and siblings donated about $5,000 to begin the fund, at the end of the night, even Dan was surprised that more than $50,000 had been given on the spot with promises of more when the NFP approval came through.

Christmas Day arrived and the entire family was glad that it was not a white Christmas. As a matter of fact, it was unusually warm weather for Christmas in Missouri. They had even decorated the patio outside the basement room. A lot of the kids were milling around out there shooting baskets and talking.

The entire Chesterfield side of the family had arrived, even Dan’s two sisters and their families. Grandma and Grandpa Shaffer were there along with Lily’s sister. Grandpa Shaffer was seated in a comfortable chair they had set up just for him. He was getting a lot of attention from those who knew what had happened to him. After all, the man died and God raised him back to life.

When the majority of the people had arrived, Dan called everyone together to share the real purpose of the evening. He told them what Alex and he had talked about and how all Alex wanted for his birthday was to start something to help kids find their purpose. Then he introduced his son.

Alex shared what was on his heart much in the same way he had explained it to his dad. He told those present that all he wanted was to help give other kids a chance to discover what they were good at and how they could use that to make their lives and others’ lives more meaningful.

He talked about how many of his friends did not have resources available to get started with the right tools they might need like basketball shoes or music lessons or art supplies or a shop to learn how to repair cars. “We’re just kids, but we have dreams too. My dream is to help provide Great Purposes for Great Kids. It’s kind of based on 1 Corinthians 9:26 NLT, ‘I run with purpose in every step.’ I want every kid to be able to say that.”

Alex received a standing ovation, even Grandpa Shaffer stood supporting himself with his cane. After everyone had congratulated Alex, his grandpa motioned him over and whispered in his ear, “Thank you for calling me back to be a part of this. I wouldn’t have missed it even for heaven!”

Alex sighed. It was a perfect birthday. He wouldn’t have wanted it different in any way. He looked around for Aaron and saw him back on the patio slam dunking the basketball wearing his new shoes, shorts and shirt. He was showing four of his foster brothers how to do the same thing.

He went out to watch. Big A, that’s what Alex had decided to call Aaron, looked like poetry in motion as he shot the basketball and moved around the court.

“Now that’s a basketball team,” Alex said as his dad walked up and put his arm around his shoulders..

“Alex, it’s just the beginning of some great things,” his dad answered.

Just then, Big A dribbled the basketball lifted his leg, dribbled under the leg. Put that leg down and then did the same with the other leg. Shooting it from behind his back, he made the ball swoosh through the net. Everyone on the patio clapped and whooped for him. Alex loved it when Big A grinned from ear-to-ear.

Turning to his dad, he said, “Hey, what about a Jesus Kid Explosion basketball exposition game, you know like those old guys … Who were they? Oh yeah, the Harlem Globetrotters? We could call them The Jesus Kidtrotters!”

Dan just laughed. “I’ll never be able to keep up with all your ideas, but never stop having them. Just write them down somewhere because I can’t keep up with all of them.”

Alex grab his dad in a huge hug “Thanks Dad, for the best birthday ever. For the first time in my life I feel like I’m doing what I was put here on earth to do.”

“Hey, you’re just 12. You got plenty of time for all that,” Dan said ruffling his son’s hair. “But I’m 32 and I feel the exact same way. We’re going to have fun doing this and help a lot of kids in the process.”

Alex smiled and gave his dad another hug, only this time he held on as long as possible. That was fine with Dan. He never wanted him to let go. Part of that was the feeling he had inside, a premonition that warned him that all of Alex’s dreams would not be easily won.

Still that hug would take a spot in his internal memory album alongside Alex’s miraculous birth.

What did the future hold for his son, for his family. He knew it would not be all roses and flowers. Life could throw some ringers. He knew that well. Still he trusted God and God’s promises.

He thought of the verse he’d just read in a new translation. It had really taken root inside him. “So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose” (Romans 8:28 TPT).

He had a feeling he would be learning the truths connected to that verse in new and profound ways in the coming year and the years to come.

Lost in his thoughts, he pondered all these things in his heart.

Teresa Shields Parker
Teresa Shields Parker is a Christian weight loss author, coach and speaker, who has lost more than 250 pounds. Her book, "Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God's Favor", is the number 1 Christian Weight Loss Memoir on Amazon. Her other books include: "Sweet Journey to Transformation: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Live Healthy", "Sweet Freedom: Losing Weight and Keeping It Off With God's Help", "Sweet Change: True Stories of Transformation" and "Sweet Hunger: Developing an Appetite for God".

She also offers Overcomers Christian Weight Loss Academy and VIP one-on-one coaching program, both available under the weight loss tab. To book Teresa for your next event, check the Speaking tab on her website. Also check out her blog and Sweet Grace for Your Journey podcast under the tabs by those names.